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Consumer Alerts

Booking Travel Online Could Include Unwanted Baggage

CONSUMER ALERT: Booking Travel Online Could Include Unwanted Baggage

Wed, May 24, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Booking vacations online can be very challenging because it can be difficult for consumers to verify what they are actually purchasing. Arkansans value their vacation time and want to make sure their hard-earned money is well spent. While most vacation booking websites are legitimate, there are a few unscrupulous sites that scams users out of money by accepting payment for a hotel or house rental that does not actually exist.

“It is easy for scammers to hide behind their computer screens and set up fake travel sites,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “They can make these sites look legitimate by stealing images from actual travel sites, causing confusion for potential buyers. It is important for Arkansans to do their homework when booking, and remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from these fake sites:

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations of vacation spots, booking agents and travel sites.
  • Call to verify the accommodations for each part of your trip, including travel, hotel, rental car and excursions, even when booking through a travel agent. Write down the confirmation number and any information about the person you spoke with to confirm the reservations.
  • Consider purchasing cancellation insurance and get a copy of the company’s cancellation policy. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association has a list of licensed travel insurance companies.
  • Pay via credit card so that the charges can be disputed in an instance that you are not happy with the services. It is easier to dispute charges on a credit card than check or cash.
  • Ask about mandatory resort fees for amenities such as a swimming pool, fitness center or internet access. Consumers are required to pay the fees whether the amenities are used or not. Hotel often do not include these fees in the price of their rooms.

Travel scams can come in the form of fake sweepstakes and only require a “small” processing fee or a credit card number verification, or sometimes scammers will send a robocall or cold-call to consumers claiming they have been chosen for a vacation. Oftentimes scammers will use high-pressure tactics to convince consumers their scam is legitimate. Another sign of a scam is that the person on the other end of the phone has very little information about the vacation spot.

In February, Rutledge filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against The Resort Place and its owners, Jay Allen and Dora Ann Edmondson. The Resort Place offered services to vacation-property owners seeking to rent their properties and to vacation-rental customers seeking to book a property online. Although consumers paid The Resort Place, the reservation was never booked, or consumers had to pay for substitute accommodations.

Consumers who believe they have been victims of a travel scam should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Sweepstakes Scams Stealing Arkansans Cash

CONSUMER ALERT: Sweepstakes Scams Stealing Arkansans Cash

Wed, May 17, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are making unsolicited phone calls and sending unsolicited emails to convince Arkansans they have won a sweepstakes or lottery. But there is a catch – “winners” must first wire a processing fee or fill out a form to provide banking information to the con artist so the money can be deposited. This is a scam.

“Arkansans work hard for their money, and these criminals who do what they can to steal from us are appalling,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “My office has had recent calls from Arkansans reporting they were told they had won $2 million – if only they would send $900. Consumers need to be cautious when receiving unsolicited phone calls or emails. Legitimate organizations will never require a processing fee or private banking information in exchange for a prize.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers spot one of these scams:

  • Consumers should not try to collect winnings from a sweepstakes they do not remember entering.
  • Never give out personal financial information.
  • Do not pay any money up front in an attempt to claim a prize.
  • Always remember, if it looks or seems too good to be true, it mostly likely is.

Scammers often use the name of legitimate businesses, like Publishers Clearinghouse, or a similar name to trick consumers into turning over their information.

No matter how the consumer is notified, there is a good chance the consumer will lose money instead of winning it. When money is wired to a foreign country, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get it returned.

Consumers should ignore all unsolicited sweepstakes prices and immediately contact the Attorney General’s office to report the call or email.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Get Schooled on the GI Bill

VETERAN ALERT: Get Schooled on the GI Bill

Wed, May 10, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – As schools are getting ready to wrap up for the summer, seniors are making plans for their next phase in life. For many students, this involves college, a vocational school or the military. Those brave men and women who choose a military career, may also become eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill when they complete the required training and fulfill active duty service requirements. This bill, much like the original GI Bill passed Congress and signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, strives to help service members learn a skill or attend college to place them on a successful career path.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps veterans and active duty service members continue their education and learn new skills for job opportunities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Many of these men and women put their education on hold to serve our country, and this GI Bill ensures that educational opportunities are available when the time is right.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of training programs available under the GI Bill:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Vocational/technical training
  • On-the-job apprenticeship
  • Licensing and certification reimbursement
  • National testing reimbursement
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Work-study programs
  • Tuition assistance
  • Tutorial assistance

Benefit payments are provided in tiered amounts based on the length of active duty service. Service members who have served at least 36 months after Sept. 10, 2001, are eligible to have 100 percent of their tuition to a public institution covered or up to $22,805.34 per year at a private or foreign school. Meanwhile, the Yellow Ribbon Program is available to service members to make up any difference in cost.

To be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, service members must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty and be discharged because of a service connected disability or served an aggregate of 90 days of active duty and received an honorable discharge. Service members who meet the criteria for this benefit have 15 years to use the assistance. Reservists and Guard members are also eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Benefits are also transferable to family members, including a spouse or child. If the service member has died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 10, 2001, his or her children may be eligible for additional benefits under the Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program.

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families can file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Scammers Phishing for Mother’s Day

CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Phishing for Mother’s Day

Wed, May 3, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – With Mother’s Day around the corner, many Arkansans are still on the hunt for the perfect gift for mom, but scammers on social media and online are angling to get you to turn over personal and financial information, in exchange for a $50 gift certificate.

“Spring fishing is a tradition across Arkansas,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But scammers phish for information that can lead hackers and scam artists straight into a consumers’ bank account.”

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid a giveaway scam:

  • Do not always believe what you see. Scammers can make links look like they direct a person to a legitimate website by stealing colors and logos from established organizations or business.
  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information like an address or email, check for a link to the organization’s privacy policy.
  • Search the promotion online. If the giveaway is a scam, the search will likely provide information about the scam or link to the organization’s website, which will offer more information if the promotion is legitimate.
  • Watch out for a reward that sounds too good to be true. Few companies can afford to provide vouchers to all customers.

These “gift certificates” are circulating as a Mother’s Day promotion and come across social media as a shared link. The link takes the user to a fake survey website that looks very similar to the business’s actual site. The fake survey is designed to gather personal information of the user, which can be used to hack into banking or other accounts and steal your identity.

If your identity has been stolen, contact the Attorney General’s office for information on filing fraud alerts, requesting an identity theft passport and what should be done next.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Pet Owners Beware of Ransom Scams

CONSUMER ALERT: Pet Owners Beware of Ransom Scams

Wed, Apr 26, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are hunting families with lost pets. Con artists scour social media sites looking for families who have recently posted that their beloved pet is missing. These scammers then contact the family and say they have the pet and will return it for a sum of money, but the scammer does not actually have the pet. Many families are so desperate for their four-legged family member to return home that they are willing to pay the ransom, no questions asked. The con artist runs away with the money, and the pet owner is left without their pet and less money.

“Many of us treat our pets like family members, so when one goes missing, our hearts break,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is shameful that these criminals would take advantage of someone suffering through the loss of a pet.“

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to this scam:

  • Be cautious if your pet is lost and receive a call from someone claiming to have the animal and asking for money in return if a reward was not initially offered.
  • Ask questions about the pet that only someone who is with the animal would know before turning over any money.
  • Do not turn over any money without proof the person has your pet.
  • Always offer to meet the person in a public place and never give the person on the other end of the phone your address.

This scam has been reported in communities across Arkansas, with some families even reportedly turning over a few hundred dollars to the scammer.

With people and pets spending more time outside during the spring and summer months, pet scams tend to increase this time of year, including stealing pets from unattended backyards and vehicles. Scammers have been known to steal photos of pets and try to sell them online, and some con artists will post as animal rescue charities using names similar to reputable charities in an effort to steal your money. Thoroughly research perspective pet sellers and charities to make sure you are dealing with reputable organizations.

Contact local police if you believe you may be being extorted.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Statewide Prescription Drug Take Back is April 29

CONSUMER ALERT: Statewide Prescription Drug Take Back is April 29

Wed, Apr 19, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas has a prescription drug epidemic. According to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory and Medical Examiner’s Office, 335 Arkansans died from drug overdoses in 2016, with nearly 40 percent of those deaths from Pulaski, Sebastian and Washington counties.

“These numbers are staggering and should be a wakeup call to us all,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is important for Arkansans to know that oftentimes teens first use prescription pain killers by stealing the pills right from a family member’s medicine cabinet. By cleaning out our medicine cabinets and turning the expired and unused medications over to law enforcement during a prescription drug take back event, lives can be saved.”

Attorney General Rutledge is reminding all Arkansans about the many drop-off locations available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 29.

Rutledge released the following list of medications that will be accepted at these events across the State:

  • Opioids, such as OxyContin
  • Stimulants, such as Adderall
  • Depressants, such as Ativan
  • Other prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Pet medicines
  • Medicated ointments and lotions
  • Inhalers
  • Liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces)
  • Medicine samples

Medications may be returned in the original bottle or in any other container for increased privacy.

Properly destroying these medications protects the environment. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting waters, which could contaminate food and water supplies. Many medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems. Turning over these medications at Take Back Day events also reduces the risk of accidental poisonings by children, seniors or pets, as well as reduces the risk of drug abuse.

To find event sites and year-round drop-off locations near you, visit the updated ARTakeBack.org. The Attorney General’s office also hosts take back events at mobile offices around the State.

Rutledge is partnering on the Prescription Drug Take Back with the Arkansas Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, FBI, Office of the State Drug Director, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and over 130 additional law enforcement and government agencies, community organizations and public health providers.

For more information about consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Leslie Carol Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas. She is the first woman and first Republican in Arkansas history to be elected to the office. Since taking office, she has begun a Mobile Office program, a Military and Veterans Initiative, a Metal Theft Prevention program and a Cooperative Disability Investigations program. She has led efforts to teach internet safety, combat domestic violence and make the office the top law firm for Arkansans. Rutledge also serves as Vice Chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association and re-established and co-chairs the National Association of Attorneys General Committee on Agriculture.

A native of Batesville, she is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Rutledge clerked for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, was Deputy Counsel for Gov. Mike Huckabee, served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Lonoke County and subsequently was an Attorney at the Department of Human Services before serving as Counsel at the Republican National Committee. Rutledge and her husband, Boyce, have a home in Pulaski County and a farm in Crittenden County.

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